Share This Page

Simpson Voting House 'ready to go'

| Monday, Nov. 5, 2012, 11:58 p.m.

It's the place where Derry Township voters cast their ballots in 1904 to give Teddy Roosevelt his first full term in office.

And if officials from the Derry Area Historical Society have their way, the Simpson Voting House will be back in business well before the next presidential runoff.

But today, as local voters go to the polls, the historic structure remains empty.

That could change next spring if the one-room clapboard building, which has been moved to its current spot near Route 22 and refurbished, is allowed to reopen.

“It could be used now,” said Evelyn Ruffing, a historical society board member coordinating the renovation project. “There is no justification for not using it. It's just ready to go.”

But Ruffing's excitement has been tempered by an ongoing dispute at the Westmoreland County Courthouse about the building's future.

Republican Commissioner Charles Anderson said that while he's a proponent of restoring the old building to host voters, more work needs to be done to the building before it can be used for voting.

And the county will not spend any more money on the project, said Anderson, who chairs the three-man board of commissioners.

The county has spent $15,000 on the voting house. Earlier this year, officials scrapped plans to spend an additional $15,000 that had been earmarked for the renovation.

“I'm not going to spend money on something that will be a black hole. I want to see if it (the building) is viable,” Anderson said.

To that end, the county asked that the facility be evaluated.

A representative from the Pennsylvania Department of State will examine the building in December and make a recommendation to county officials as to whether the Simpson Voting House can be used as a polling place.

More than 500 voters in the precinct are presently using the New Alexandria Firemen's Club on Route 22.

Commissioner Ted Kopas, the lone Democrat on the board, said the only work that is needed is the installation of a paved parking lot and handicapped-accessible railing.

“I think it should be the county's obligation,” Kopas said. “It's our obligation to the folks in the Simpson precinct and the county's heritage to see this project through to completion. And we will.”

After being used for elections for a century, the voting house was shuttered in 2004. County officials said it was outdated and lacked modern restrooms and facilities to accommodate voters with physical handicaps.

The county moved the building on the back of a flatbed truck from its former site near Pittsburgh Raceway Park to county-owned property a mile east on Route 22.

Ruffing said volunteers worked over the summer to finish the project, although there is still no plumbing, which would require the county to bring in portable toilets on Election Day.

Otherwise, the building can easily handle voters, she said.

“It's definitely big enough,” Ruffing said. “People have really worked hard for this.”

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.